On August 15, at around 5 p.m., Dejan Sikima was on his way home from work controlling traffic at a downtown construction site when he noticed an elderly man lying in the grass near the foot of Cherry St.
“People were passing by and I didn’t see anybody stop to check on him, so I decided to pull my car over safely and go see what was up with this man,” he recalled. “I was recovering from surgery to my arm and the first thing I thought was how I was going to lift him if he needed help.”
The octogenarian had become separated from nursing staff and other patients after disembarking from the ferry terminal and walked the distance along the waterfront.
“When I asked him how he was doing, he said he was weak,” said Sikima.
The 82-year-old man, a diabetic with dementia, was wearing a tag around his neck that Sikima was familiar with.
“I worked at the same nursing home before, so I knew where it was,” he said. “After I drove him back there, he asked me for my name, date of birth and phone number, which I gave him.”
A few days later, the man’s wife called Sikima to thank him for rescuing her husband, who was a retired Toronto Police officer. His habits of note-taking and conscientiousness were very much intact despite his medical condition.
“She was very grateful and she said he had worked the streets as a cop for almost three decades,” he said.
Sikima was among several Toronto residents honoured with Community Member Awards at Toronto Police Service headquarters on October 29 for their selfless acts and quick thinking in service of their community.
Last March, John Woolley was heading off to work, aware that there was an Amber Alert issued for a four-year-old girl who was in a car that was stolen.
“Before I left the house, I joked with my wife that I might see the vehicle,” he said.
Police had received a call from a distressed mother that her young daughter had been abducted by an unknown male. She left the vehicle running with the girl in the rear child seat to attend a second child back in her home.
When she returned a few minutes later, the vehicle was missing.
“When I heard the Amber Alert, I committed a few details to memory,” said Woolley, who works for a private property management company. “Just before parking my work truck, I saw a vehicle parked abnormally with the engine running. I thought the driver was reversing, so I paused before pulling into the parking space.”
Quickly realizing that the car and number plate matched the vehicle in the Amber Alert description, Woolley approached it on foot and saw the little girl alone.
"I checked to ensure her vital signs were alright before I called 9-1-1,” he said. “The call dispatcher instructed me to stay close to the car until police arrived, which I did.”
Acting Chief James Ramer thanked Sikima, Woolley and 41 other citizens for going above and beyond to help make Toronto a better place.
“Whether we recognize the Crown Attorney who did the right thing for a victim of crime or the City of Toronto employees who helped set up trust and understanding between the police and the community, these are important partnerships,” he said. “As the Service modernizes, embracing partnerships is a key strategic goal for us to create safe communities. We live in a large city with complex needs. Through partnerships, we can work together to create solutions to manage these needs to continue to keep our city safe.”
New Toronto Police Services Board member Uppala Chandrasekera said each honouree is a true hero.
“Extraordinary actions like yours play a critical role in building safe neighbourhoods and communities,” she said. “When we unite in our efforts to enhance community safety and build healthy and strong neighbourhoods, we create powerful and incredible alliances. Selfless and compassionate actions of individuals contribute beyond measure to making Toronto the best and safest city in the world.”
Chandrasekera singled out Woolley for special praise.
“I am a parent of a three-year-old,” she said. “I remember watching this unfold in the news and I was horrified. So I want to say thank you, Mr. Woolley. You are a hero.”